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AIDS may not be as common in Utah as it is in other states, but that doesn't mean Utahns can relax. Instead, it is time to prepare and be educated, Provo School District officials say.

To support that theory, the Provo Board of Education approved this week the district's AIDS master plan for secondary schools. That plan consists of a letter to be sent to parents before children can receive sex education instruction and outlines a number of goals the district plans to accomplish through AIDS education."Our only defense against AIDS is to teach about it," board member Mossi White said. "We've got to be realistic. We cannot relax now. We have to be prepared."

Denise Kuehne, a physiology teacher at Timpview High School and a registered nurse, is acting as the district's AIDS specialist. She presented board members with the plan and asked for their counsel on how specific AIDS education should be in the district's secondary schools.

"I don't know how we can educate them if we don't talk specifics," board member David Weight said. "We shouldn't talk in generalities so that they can't figure out what we are talking about. But it is also imperative that we make good judgments while teaching, and not pursue outside the bounds of the curriculum."

Board President Clarence Robison agreed that AIDS education would "get us away from street terms . . . as long as we give proper instruction to (students) and then let them handle themselves. But before we can teach them the facts, we need to teach them principles to govern a moral life."

School districts throughout the state have had to come to terms with AIDS education since AIDS curriculum was mandated by the State Board of Education.

Kuehne told the board that a clear board policy needs to be put in place and also a committee to deal with the problem.

She recommended that safety precautions for personnel - such as developing a kit with rubber gloves to be used when a student is cut - are needed and "it is very, very necessary that we deal with it. If we don't we will be wide open for suits."

Karl Barksdale, Provo School District instructional specialist, said, "With Denise we can relieve some needless fears about AIDS and deal with a difficult situation in a professional way."

The district's first priority is to bring AIDS education to the secondary schools and at-risk programs such as the Regional Adolescent Center, the vocational high school, and the Youth in Custody program. Instructors most likely will spend a few days discussing AIDS, Kuehne said.

By January a scaled-down education program will be in place for elementary students. Instructors probably will discuss AIDS for about an hour, she said.

As part of the district's goals, in-service training will be mandatory before any teacher implements AIDS-related curriculum. If teachers want to teach beyond the mandatory guidelines, they must clear their lessons through the AIDS specialist, central office staff, and board when necessary.

Another goal is to have key people in each school work with parental notification and parental review of curriculum.

When parents receive the letter, it will be specific about what will be discussed and gives parents three options. They can give permission for instruction, refuse permission or review the curriculum before giving permission.